I got a call from one guy having serious hernia surgery. He said he was going to be out of it for two-and-a-half weeks. He spent half an hour with me on the phone, going over strategy moves he'd have to make. He told me 'I turn in a lineup every week, and if these players do this, I want you to put these guys in my lineup.' I took down all his instructions. Then I thought about it for a second -- this guy was going into surgery in an hour. He was calling me from his hospital bed.
Jeff Barton, Scoresheet founder
Sometime during the scorching heat of July 1978, Rene Custeau's Big Red Machine was on the verge of conquering the Portland Boys Club Strat-O-Matic league. Rene's Reds won 105 games, easily outdistancing Big Jim Vance's Dodgers for the NL crown, and were poised to meet their AL opponent, Timmy Smith's Baltimore Orioles.
The evening before the World Series was to open, several conspirators met to find a way to rig the outcome. It seems Rene's Reds had a touch of bravado and had rubbed many of their opponents the wrong way as they blasted their way to a league record in wins. There were many ideas. Get Tim some weighted dice. Use the photocopier to make new and improved Orioles pitcher cards. Some even suggested adding Ex-Lax to some sort of pregame food for Rene. In the end, it was decided to kidnap the great George Foster's card and hold it hostage. The Big Red Machine would only run on four cylinders without the prodigious left fielder. With Rene in the gym playing basketball, the plan was set in motion. Someone quickly rifled through his locker and found the team. Foster was stolen away and stashed in the Club's Encyclopedia Britannica under F. They felt they had to at least give him a sporting chance.
The following day everyone squeezed in around the table for the beginning of the World Series. Rene laid out his team in preparation for making out his lineup card. Suddenly he realized Foster was AWOL. He frantically searched his cards and then his notebook to no avail. A few of the conspirators couldn't keep a straight face, and the cat was almost let out of the bag. Rene was convinced there was some tomfoolery afoot and demanded to know where Georgie had been hidden. It seemed the conspiracy was about to come apart, but everyone managed to keep their peace and avoid any information leaks. The commissioner, Club Assistant Director Steve "Mouse" Muslawski, intervened and severely reprimanded everyone in the room. Steve demanded the card's return and threatened to banish everyone from the club if it remained absent. After a few tense minutes, he acted on his threat and ejected everyone but Rene and Tim.
The World Series was played that day without the infamous George Foster card. The Reds went down in six games. The Strat league faced extinction for a few weeks in the wake of the scandal, but in the end survived. It would continue on in various forms for nearly 20 years.
My brother and I spent an entire day (with an hour break for lunch and supper) setting up a 40-team league with players from the 2004, 1988 and 2000 Hall of Fame set (the three sets I own). We split players into positions, using Hall of Fame cards in place of season cards and 2004 cards over 1988 cards when a player had played in both seasons. It took us from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day to get the teams drafted. We then set up a schedule and an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of stats, then set to playing.
We've been playing through the games series-by-series for about a year now, and still have a couple thousand left to go. Why are we going through all this trouble? Well, we find it fun to see how players that could have never played against each other, or together, would fare. Who would turn out to be the better hitter, George Brett or Ted Williams? Who was the better pitcher, Randy Johnson or Bob Gibson? It's an interesting test.
Plus, it's one of those things that brothers can do together. We don't have much time to spend with each other anymore with work, my wife, and taking care of a house and all that goes with it. So being able to take a day a month to sit around the kitchen table and roll game after game and be able to soak up those moments of brother bonding over a game of baseball -- all the while knowing in the back of my mind that life will likely get in the way of us doing that as we get older and life takes us in separate directions -- baseball has always kept us close, and this is just another layer.
I'm the commissioner of the CBA, Cyber Baseball Association. CBA was founded as a co-venture between some Strat buddies from Canada and the U.S. who allied to form what many feel is one of the strongest and most stable leagues to play in. We are international, with membership in Holland, Canada and the United States, and regions represented in our yearly history include Quebec, Ottawa and far North Canada, Wyoming, New York, Washington, Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri, etc.
Our league Web site is here. Check out our press archives and team home pages by clicking on our custom-designed logos. Each home page traces the team's history back to its roots. Several teams like Brooklyn, "Wolfman" Shapiro's Skokie Team, Longue Pointe and many other teams have custom-designed baseball cards and uniforms! Each logo is custom-designed to reflect region, player preferences and preferred era of baseball. They truly reflect the personality of each GM and the past GMs who are enshrined in our vast archive resource.
I've been playing Strat regularly since 1969 or so. I was about 5 years old when my uncle gave my brother (8 years old at the time) and me a Strat baseball set he used in college that included the 1966 NL East teams. I was hooked immediately. Baseball led to football, which led to hockey and basketball and then the computer games of each. I have played in a number of computer and cards/dice leagues and in a STAR Tournament. Needless to say, at the age of 42, I am still playing Strat regularly, and with my 7-year-old son who enjoys it as well (but likes Yu-Gi-Oh! cards more).
I was a simulation sports addict as a kid. It started in middle school when my dad introduced me to his 1965 APBA football game. I loved "watching" Gale Sayers do his stuff, and it quickly led to my purchase of the current seasons of basketball, baseball and football. Eventually, I found Strat-O-Matic and purchased one of their early DOS versions of baseball. I loved draft-o-matic and played lots of made-up seasons.
In high school, I founded an APBA pro basketball league. It lasted until we went to college but was my first taste of sim leagues as competition. The '94 strike soured my love of baseball for a while, but the summer of '98 brought me back. I played that season as a solitary replay. But with the discovery of the Internet while at college, I found other crazies and started a new league.
The Indiana Baseball League started in 2000, using the 1999 card set. It has now been almost seven years and we're still running strong. In the past two years, we've expanded into a new entity known as the IBL universe. I'm not sure how the idea started, but I became interested in retro leagues. We decided it would be pretty cool to relieve baseball history and add to our current-season team. The first step was the Pre-IBL (PIBL), which was a retro league started in 1946. DiMaggio, Williams and Feller joined the current stars as a part of IBL history. This summer, we added another branch with a 1978 retro league called the XIBL (Gen X). I was born in 1978, so it was a great place to start another league. We are cruising along toward a league history that will include 1946 to the present. Maybe someday we'll get back to Cobb, Ruth and Johnson.
Needless to say, I spend more than my share of hours on Baseball-Reference.com looking at the careers of players long since retired. In the past few weeks, I've traded for Virgil Trucks and Chipper Jones while drafting George Brett, Bobby Grich and Dwayne Washington. We've also taken the Sports Guy to heart and designed a tiered Hall of Fame to honor our greats.
Any time I mention this to my wife, I get the "You're talking to your pretend friends, right?" line.